Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

PhD Higher Education Leadership, Management, Policy


Education Leadership, Management and Policy


Rong Chen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Eunyoung Kim, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Edmund Adjapong, Ph.D.


Academic Undermatch, Social Capital Theory, School Counselors, First-Generation Students, College Selection, College Decision-Making


Low-income, minority, and/or first-generation students are more likely to undermatch. The consequences of this decision can negatively impact degree attainment, as well as individual and societal gains. The purpose of this study was to examine the experiences and perceptions of high school counselors in order to gain a deeper understanding of how high these counselors serve as institutional agents within the college decision-making process. The sample consisted of 12 New Jersey public high school counselors employed at Title I funded high schools. Results from the study concluded that high school counselors do not perceive undermatching as a negative decision. In addition, the overload within the role of a high school counselor impacts their ability to provide individualized counseling as institutional agents. Lastly, the time spent providing one-on-one counseling is highly valued by high school counselors, as it allows the opportunity to build trusting relationships with students—a key factor in a social capital network and the final finding in this study. Implications of these findings are discussed relative to bridging the gap between policy research and practice within the role of the high school counselor. The methods through which this can be completed included the establishment of national norms, redefining the counselor role, and a standard guidance on college advising to ensure equity and access to all students.